Ganvie is the biggest floating village in the world. When I travelled to Benin I had no idea that this unique place excited. I had googled what to see in the area around the capital Cotonú, but I did not found anything about this place. It was therefore a coincidence that I ended up in Ganvie. This unknown place actually is one of most interesting places I have been.
After taking a small wooden boat from the main land for around 30 minutes we ended up in a city build on water. Thousands of houses were built on stilts. I remember being speechless. My hearth was pumping. I was amazed when seeing the city in front of me. Could people really live like this?, I asked myself.
As many as 20.000 people live here on water several miles from the nearest shoreline. The villagers were doing all their daily activities like shopping, working, transporting, and socializing from their small wooden canoes (pirogues).
The villagers of Ganvie mostly live of fishing, and to a very small scale of tourism industry. Ganvie is as said a pretty unknown tourist destination. Therefore, most people still live like they did hundreds of years ago.
So why did they build a village in the middle of a lake, you might ask. Around 400 years ago, during the slave trade, the Tofinu tribe built the village in an attempt to escape from being captured by the Fon tribe. The Fon people were forbidden for religious and traditional reasons to fight in water. Hence the Tofinu were safe to build their homes on the water. Ganvie actually means: We survived!
Why did they not move back to solid grounds when there were no more treats of slavery, you might wonder. They did not wish to do so. This because they have over many generations have gotten accustomed to live on the water, and therefore do not want to abandon their unique lifestyle. This floating African village is completely sustainable, and the only time villagers go ashore is when they want to sell their fish.
It is possible to sleep over at the only hotel ine the village, which is also built on stilts on the lake. One of the things I found challenges when travelling in this area was the language. Few speaks English, and the language is French and my French is pretty broken. But besides that the country felt safe and people were friendly and helpful.
A post about Ganvie was posted as one of the first posts on this blog. However, many of you were not following me back then, so here I post a new post – want to spread the word about this unique places 😉